Jul 10, 2009

on why i'm now catch and release

I am willing to now officially declare myself catch and release.

While I haven't put up a video post in a while now, over the past few months fishing in Jamaica Bay I've compiled footage that I saw as part of a post about pollution in the Bay - to be posted soon. Garbage floating by, DEP transport ships moving "sludge." My neighbor claims one on June night all his hooks came up covered with a black, oily substance. Alarming, but a mystery.

I'm officially putting up the white flag. I'll fish. I'll even give away my keepers to a nearby angler if he/she wants them. But I won't eat fish coming out of New York City waters anymore.

This week, several news stories ran on the fact that health warnings about contaminated fish were not posted at many popular fishing spots. In timely fashion, the signs - or lack of signs - were tied to the recession and the people who eat the fish and are presumably forced to do so. After all, it's free food, free protein swimming out there. Not to mention a fun hobby.

The sign issue has been rectified, or is set to be rectified. Don't worry, they didn't even cost that much.

In the past week or two, aside from the media coverage, coincidentally, I've read a decent amount of fish lit.

-"Gone Fishing," Mark Singer's great article on the Manhattan restaurant Esca in Secret Ingredients, a collection of food writing from The New Yorker.
-excerpts from Hemingway on Fishing, a collection of Papa's writing about fish and fishing

and, finally,

-the New York State Department of Health's "Chemicals in Sportfish and Game: 2009-2010 Health Advisories"

The fact that synched it for me - and still trying to hunt down exactly where I first read this: fish, no matter where they are caught in New York City waters contain the same or similar amounts of contaminants because they retain those contaminants for a period of time before they are expelled when the fish hit cleaner water. When they reach clean waters, eventually the fish lose most of their toxins. So, while they are near polluted waters, they most likely will still have the toxins from the polluted waters.

I suppose that doesn't rule out the idea that Jamaica Bay's waters might be cleaner than the Hudson River, but while the Hudson might have a tissue mill releasing thousands of gallons of waste into the water every day, Jamaica Bay has to worry about storm runoff, and seepage from an old landfill - all the while acting as a giant sponge for what washes off of the runways at JFK.

A report by Donald Malins, a researcher at the Pacific Northwest Research Foundation states that fish caught in New York Harbor had close to ten times the amount of PCBs than fish tested in Montauk, Long Island. Similarly, DDT levels in fish in NY Harbor were close to ten times the amount of the fish tested off Montauk.

The official word on striped bass in Jamaica Bay is actually better than I thought. Turns out, the official advisory is that adult males "eat no more than one meal per week of American eel, bluefish, striped bass and smaller [under 25-inch] weakfish," if you can manage to catch one of those suckers.

But, listen, I'm out. I'm officially a catch and release guy. It's just a shame that it's come to this point. Man has been living and eating out of these waters for so long and now we've done so much damage to the fish that were here before us.

Some of the most interesting things from the text of the 2009-2010 Health Advisory:

The expected:
-Women and Children are at particular risk.
-Always wash your hands after handling your three and four-ounce LEAD sinkers; and never bite those little sinkers that fix onto monofilament. They're lead, dude.
-"Do not eat any fish or game if they are found dead or dying."

The alarming:
-Over 130 bodies of water in New York State have specific warnings against eating certain types of fish
-Never, EVER, EVER!!!! eat the lobster tomalley, or hepatopancreas. Don't do it. It will do you in. Fluid from the hepatopancreas spreads to the water you cook your lobster in, too. So throw it out. Maybe put gloves on while throwing it out.
-Aside from the tomalley, contaminants accumulate in the fat of the fish, so trim your catch well!

The bizarre:

-When it comes to eating snapping turtles - first of all, be careful even going NEAR snapping turtles - um, don't eat the fat.
-Maybe think about not using lead bullets anymore.
-In case you were thinking about it, don't eat intestines.
-While dressing game, be aware of any abscesses in the lungs, ribg cage, intestines, liver or stomach. Thank you Dwight Schrute.
-OK. If you insist on taking the skull cap (antlers) of your kill, at least wear gloves. And clean the damn thing.
-"Thorough cooking will inactivate the rabies vidus, but meat from infected game should not be eaten."
-Don't handle any spinal cords, brains, or other nervous tissue. Just don't.
-Finally, if you absolutely insist on eating a wild goose or duck, skin them and remove all the fat first. And - in true "Eat This, Not That" style - Eat Wood ducks and Canada Geese, not diving ducks.

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